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By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday was considering ending a delay in considering Chuck Hagel's controversial nomination as President Barack Obama's defense secretary, which would open the way to a vote on his confirmation later in the day or on Wednesday.
The Democratic majority was expected to approve the nomination when the issue gets to the floor, but the process was delayed by Republicans, who used Senate procedures to put off the approval.
The 100-member body was due to consider at noon (1700 GMT) a measure that would end Republicans' use of a procedural tactic known as a filibuster that had delayed the vote for almost two weeks. It was the first time a filibuster has been used to delay consideration of a nominee for secretary of defense.
The Senate would then vote on whether Hagel would succeed Leon Panetta as the civilian leader at the Pentagon either later on Tuesday or some time on Wednesday.
Many Republicans have fiercely opposed Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska who angered party leaders when he criticized former President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war.
Some have also raised questions about whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel or tough enough on Iran.
(Reporting By Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Storey)